Police in Northern Ireland are failing to tackle rising levels of domestic violence, a report has found.
Even though there was a 10% increase in the number of domestic abuse cases recorded over the past three years, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate (CJI) claimed detection rates had dropped, meaning fewer perpetrators were being brought before the courts.
CJI chief inspector Brendan McGuigan said: “More needs to be done to get back on track.”
There were just over 27,000 incidents of domestic abuse in the past year - the equivalent to around three attacks every hour - and about a third (35%) of those responsible were caught.
The previous year there were 25,196 recorded domestic abuse cases when the detection rate stood at 41%.
Victims include heterosexual men and women as well as those in same-sex relationships.
The CJI said internal issues around the use of specially-trained domestic abuse officers and the role of the public protection units identified during a previous inspection three years ago had not yet been resolved, and there was still an inconsistent approach to investigation and support of victims.
Mr McGuigan said: “Inspectors understand that where there has been co-location of Women’s Aid workers with public protection units this has had a positive impact and delivered more beneficial outcomes for high-risk victims.
“We would hope this approach when combined with the establishment of victim and witness care units will improve the experience of those victims who come forward, as it is only through perpetrators being convicted at court that victims can be fully protected.”
The chief inspector also expressed disappointment that most of the 13 recommendations made by his office in 2010 had not been progressed by the PSNI.
He urged senior management to adopt a service-wide approach to tackling the problem.
“This is not about individual officers - some of whom are doing very good work. This is about a corporate response to a set of recommendations,” added Mr McGuigan.
In light of the limited progress made against the 2010 recommendations, the CJI is to carry out a full inspection on how the police handle domestic violence in 2015.
Mr McGuigan noted in his new report: “We acknowledge that this is a difficult and complex problem, and there are no quick fix answers.
“However, I am convinced that with greater effort and focus from the criminal justice agencies, the unacceptable rises in this type of crime and fall in the detection of perpetrators can be reversed.”
The chief inspector also said he hoped the findings would not discourage victims of domestic violence from coming forward to report crimes.